How to Teach Kids Mental Immunity

No matter how healthy or dysfunctional or absent or controlling our parents were while we were growing up, this generation of parents has the opportunity to improve and provide a safety net for their children to develop mental immunity.

And, while we’re raising a family, it’s critical to increase our own mindfulness and working on ourselves to increase our resiliency during these challenging and uncertain times.

This means more than over-scheduling their time with an abundance of activities, competition, and regulating social media.

It requires us to carve out time and create a safe place for them to express the myriad of swirling thoughts and feelings that accompany growing into adulthood in today’s confusing, distracting, and morally shifting” world.

Defining Mental Immunity

Besides defining mental immunity, here are three concepts contained in the following books that can help parents make the difference:

  • create safety through containment,
  • accept who our children are, and
  • listen for their brilliance.
  • The term, mental immunity is explored in The Book of Joy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. Besides sharing their own experiences of suffering and joy, they also identify the science of various related aspects of joy. They write, “So much of our unhappiness originates within our own mind and heart—in how we react to events in our life.
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Quotes that Resonate

“‘Mental Immunity,’ is learning to avoid the destructive emotions and to develop the positive ones. If your mental health is sound, then when disturbances come, you will have some distress, and quickly recover.

“Initially, we’ve got to accept ourselves as we are, and get to know the things that trigger us. We should not berate ourselves for our negative thoughts and emotions; they are natural and unavoidable. These are the things that we can change, and we ought not to be ashamed of ourselves.

“We cannot control the inevitability of adversity, illness, and ultimately death; we can though, influence their effect in our life by adjusting the attitude we take toward them.’

The first step is to accept the reality of suffering. So much of what causes heartache is our wanting things to be different than they are.” Having unrealistic expectations is the cause of much unhappiness.

“Through self-inquiry and meditation, we can discover the nature of our minds and learn to soothe our emotional reactivity. This is the process of developing mental immunity.”

Create Safety Through Containment

In his book, The Clarity Cleanse, Habib Sadeghi teaches the path to clarity. “By honoring both positive, negative, and in-between emotions, we integrate them into the clear space inside us that’s our true being. Clarity is a cup. Like water being poured over tea leaves without a cup, our thoughts and feelings flow all over the place.”

Habib tells the story of a man who said, “‘I was a mess—until my friend Gary came along and did for me what I couldn’t do for myself. He contained me. In that crucial moment, he served as my cup.’

Quotes that Resonate

Containing means being able to gather and hold what we’re feeling, being present with it so that we consciously experience it in a nonjudgmental and empathic way. As we process it in this way, we enable it to pass through us.

“Clarity is a clean cup. The muck stuck in the bottom of our cups consists of our biases and prejudices. It’s our limiting beliefs and our many distractions. It’s repressed emotions and unprocessed experiences that stick with us, drain our energy, and get in our way.

“If we cannot properly digest our emotions, we tend to react by rejecting the situation outright, often dramatically by blaming others and venting our outrage. This is feeling without thinking, and it means we are emotionally uncontained.

“One of the main things we aim for as we reach for greater clarity is the practice of containment in ourselves in any situation, which allows us to solve the problems we are presented with rather than—

  • expecting someone else to solve them as we adopt a powerless attitude,
  • blaming someone else for them as we adopt an aggressive attitude, or
  • avoiding them altogether by adopting a passive attitude.

“When we practice containment, we see and accept a situation as it exists, and then work with it to achieve a positive outcome, learning what we can from the experience along the way. This doesn’t mean we have to be happy about what’s happening to us or that we allow others to avoid responsibility for their part.

“Parents are our primary teachers in the art of emotional containment, but if they haven’t mastered it for themselves their children may never learn it.

With clarity on your side, you’ll find yourself more prepared for whatever life may throw at you. You’ll better enjoy the ups and more easily handle the downs. You’ll be more resilient, and more powerful, and better able to steer your life in the direction you want to go,” and help your children learn emotional containment also.

Accept Who Our Children Are

Shefali Tsabary’s book is my all-time favorite parenting book.

Shefali explains in her book, The Conscious Parent: “You are raising a Spirit throbbing with its own signature. When children are just being themselves – creative, joyous, generous, forgiving, they are their own person. It’s easy to not pay close attention to them. It’s no surprise we struggle to tune into our children’s essence.

Quotes that Resonate

“How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? Does your parenting method especially include listening to your child’s spirit?”

“It certainly isn’t out of a lack of love that we impose our will on our children. Rather, it stems from a lack of consciousness. However, when we begin to be aware, we redesign the dynamic we share with our children. Until then, children may pay a heavy price when we lack consciousness. This is because, coming from our own unconsciousness ourselves, we bequeath to them our own unresolved needs, unmet expectations, and frustrated dreams.

“Despite our best intentions, we enslave them to the emotional inheritance we received from our parents, binding them to the debilitating legacy of ancestors past. The nature of unconsciousness is such that, until it’s metabolized, it will seep through generation after generation. Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end.”

“While you may believe your most important challenge is to raise your children well, there’s an even more essential task you need to attend to, which is the foundation of effective parenting. This task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be.

“As much as conscious parenting is about listening to our children, honoring their essence, and being fully present with them, it’s also about boundaries and discipline. Even when we are called upon to discipline, consciousness shows us how to do so in a manner that bolsters our child’s spirit rather than diminishing it. To parent consciously requires us to undergo personal transformation.”

“A certain child enters our life with its individual difficulties, stubbornness, and temperamental challenges in order to help us become aware of how much we have yet to grow. When we approach the relationship between parent and child as “this is it” then we introduce an element of awareness.

“The most ordinary moments provide us with opportunities to nurture self-definition, resilience, tolerance, and connectedness—the attributes that spring from being fully present. Keep in mind that the conscious way of parenting is something we inch our way into. Even a tiny shift in the vibes in a family has the power to alter the consciousness of the entire family.”

Listen for Their Brilliance

Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think, is the best book about listening I have ever read.

Quotes that Resonate

“Listening to a child—giving them good attention—makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their words and seem stupid. Most parents see themselves as guides, protectors, and assume they know best for their children.

“We think we listen to our children, but we don’t. We interrupt what they’re saying with our own stories and comments and judgment. We look at our watches, sigh, frown, tap our finger, read what’s on our smartphone, or walk away. We give advice, additional counsel, and more advice. We talk at them all the time and wonder why we don’t think they are listening.

“We have been taught this almost since we could breathe, that helping people means thinking for them—giving them our ideas. Therefore, we listen only as long as it takes our brain to think of an idea for them.

“But our ideas are not their ideas. Real help consists of listening to our children, of paying respectful attention to them so that they can access their own ideas first.  What are we listening for? We’re listening for their brilliance; their own best ideas.

“This is not to say that advise is never a good thing or that our ideas are never needed. Sometimes our suggestions are exactly what the person wants and needs. Just don’t rush into it.

“To help a child think for themself, first listen. And listen some more. And just when they say they can’t think of anything else, you can ask them the question, “What else do you think about this? What else comes to mind that you want to say?


When we’re trying to help a child or teenager sort through themselves, our listening empowers them to think for themselves.”

These three parenting skills: containment, acceptance, and listening provide a bedrock—a solid foundation, safety, and a sustainable opportunity where our children can develop emotional immunity.

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